16 January 2014
During the winter of 2005 I took my first solo road trip. I later dubbed this my Epic Road Trip. The destination for that trip was Tucson AZ where my brother Bill lived at the time. Bill took me on a number of hikes and showed me around the beautiful Sonoran desert. He also introduced me to David Yetman. Not in person, but via TV.
David Yetman is Tucson’s chief Desert Rat
Yetman, host of the PBS KUAT series “The Deserts Speaks” is the definition of a renaissance man. Variously he is a philosopher, politician, expert on the ethnobotony of northern Sonora, teacher, photographer, choirboy, Indian trader, television show host, author, and very funny.
After leaving the political world, Yetman first served as Executive Director of the Tucson Audubon Society, and then joined the University of Arizona’s Southwest Center in 1992 as a Research Social Scientist. He’s been with the Southwest Center ever since. He specializes in the plants, geography and people of northwestern Mexico.
Yetman got involved as host of the PBS show “Desert Speaks” in 2000 when PBS decided it wanted a desert-oriented travel adventure show. All of Yetman’s long-time friends and travel buddies have been seriously jealous of him ever since, as he got the job everyone wants—to get paid to do what you love.
The glowing and appreciative account above is worth a full read. Yetman is indeed a "renaissance man". Below is a little bit about the show itself.
In 10 years, a saguaro grows one inch.
In 10 years, KUAT-TV has taken the Sonoran Desert around the world.
KUAT’s acclaimed ”The Desert Speaks” series marks its 10th anniversary with a compilation episode tomorrow night on Channel 6.
The program, which originated as a radio and then a TV program for the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, has gone from exploring every inch of the museum grounds to traveling throughout the Southwest. Along the way, it has collected 19 Emmy Awards and has been seen as far away as Japan and Spain.
It is easy to understand why Yetman would have a trail named after him. The impact he has had as it relates to educating the masses about desert biology, ecology and culture would be hard to calculate.
Ok! Enough about the man and enough about TV. On with the hike!
Yetman Trail is a 6 mile long trail in Tucson Mountain Park near the city of Tucson, AZ. The trail connects a spot on Gates Pass Rd to Camino de Oeste in Tucson. It takes you through a number of valleys providing you with great views of the mountains and the beautiful cactus forest that covers them.
One mile from Camino de Oeste Trailhead, you will see the remains of a stone house known as Bowen Ranch. This house was built in the 1930s by a newspaper editor who lived in the area for a few years.
Source: © 2006-2013 SummitPost.org
Just where is the Yetman Trail? It is on the West side of Tucson in the 21,000 acre Tucson Mountain Park which is entirely in the Tucson Mountain range.
The tireless efforts of C.B. Brown, considered to be the “father of Tucson Mountain Park”, to set aside large tracts of land in the Tucson Mountains for future generations, led to the Pima County Board of Supervisors’ request to the U.S. Department of the Interior to set aside thousands of acres of land in the Tucson Mountains for park purposes in 1929.
This groundbreaking request was granted under the Recreational Act of 1926, and the Board of Supervisors promptly established Tucson Mountain Park (TMP). Today, the 20,000-acre Park offers some of the most impressive natural Sonoran Desert beauty in the Tucson Basin and contains some of the most significant wildlife habitat in the Tucson Mountains.
Once seen as a rural park in 1929, TMP is practically surrounded by development today. Its popularity as a destination and the appeal of being located on the edge of a protected natural area has led to increased residential development on its fringes, as well as a high-end resort, golf courses and other commercial development.
Source: Pima County Parks and Recreation
The big picture:
Detail of David Yetman Trail in Tucson Mountain Park: (click image)
Elevation profile of the David Yetman Trail in Tucson Mountain Park. Approximately 6.5 miles with about 700' of accumulated elevation gain. Click above image to full size profile.
Click on the photos below for a larger image.
I had been wanting to get back to this trail since Betsy and I hiked it only once before. That was with Cindi who initiated the hike last January.
Last winter the weather in the Tucson area was much cooler than this year and that day in January was a bit on the breezy side.
This January's hike was initiated by Tucson Hiking MeetUP member Maureen. She is in the lead. Although we had a cool start to the hike, it was toasty warm by the time we had hiked back to the vehicles.
At this point we have just hiked up to the Saddle from the parking area at Gate's Pass where we started the hike.
In the middle of this photo are "Little Cat" and "Big Cat" mountains. They are well known and often referred to landmarks.
All the structures seen to the right of Cat Mountain are primarily trailers which are in Tucson Estates - an age restricted retirement community.
A Google-eye view of Tucson Estates. High density living at its finest! Everyone here is just minutes away from miles of world class hiking.
Here are the Happy Hikers: Roger of Minnesota, Bill of Kansas, Maureen of Pittsburgh PA and Winky of Hornbeck Haven. That's Bren's Mountain in the background. Bren's is considered a classic example of what geologists call Tucson Mountain Chaos, a confusing jumble of rock types.
Allow me to introduce Pink Corker. Unfortunately she could not join us on this hike.
Maybe next time...
Another look at Bren's without all those pesky humans blocking the view.
The top of Bren's. Saguaros allllll the way to the top!
This is looking back toward the Saddle at Gate's Pass. On the left is Golden Gate Mountain.
A short break to consult the map and we were on our way again.
Just after this stop we bumped into two other couples who were out hiking. They told us about an old 50s Chevy convertible which was just over the hill. They said it was used in a commercial with a woman riding in it with a scarf blowing in the breeze. I instantly thought of Dinah Shore. I went down the hill to investigate.
If you are my age or older you most likely remember the TV commercial with Dinah Shore where she sang: "See the USA, in your Chevrolet...". It was a staple of The Dinah Shore Chevy Show.
Step back in time and watch Dinah tell you all about it.
It was the 1950s and everyone was told they wanted The American Dream: A nice house in suburbia, a lovely wife like Dinah, and of course a brand new Chevrolet.
And Dinah was there to help you attain that dream!
What could be better than cruising along on the National Road in your new Chevy convertible?
Unfortunately a lot of American Dreams have ended up
like this old wrecked TV prop - especially of late.
Who is at the wheel of the American Dream now...?
We said our farewells to Dinah and continued on down the trail.
We went through more gorgeous desert scenery as we wound our way between the mountains.
Every turn in the trail presented us with another great view - and some magnificent cacti.
Although the crested form of the Saguaro is rare, they show up just about everywhere - if you look closely enough.
Even when saguaro cacti grow in their normal form, they rarely grow symmetrically. Saguaros sometimes grow in odd or misshapen forms. The growing tip occasionally produces a fan-like form which is referred to as crested or cristate. Though these crested saguaros are somewhat rare, over 25 have been found within the boundaries of the park. Biologists disagree as to why some saguaros grow in this unusual form. Some speculate that it is a genetic mutation. Others say it is the result of a lightning strike or freeze damage. At this point we simply do not know what causes this rare, crested form.
Amazing! Bizarre! Wild and Crazy! Get the drift...?
It doesn't get much better than this!
Here we go again... I think Betsy must have thought she heard running water and so started shedding her clothes. But there would be no skinny-dippin' today.
This is one of the reasons many folks hike the Yetman trail - to see the ruins of the Bowen House.
The Bowen House is located just off of the David Yetman Trail in the Tucson Mountains. Sherry Bowen, a typesetter and later city editor for the Arizona Daily Star, built it of native stone in the early 1930s. The Bowens had lived in Rockford, Illinois but moved to Tucson in the late twenties with the hope that the change in climate would help Ruby Bowen’s serious heart condition. The Bowens first lived in Tucson but soon decided to homestead in the Tucson Mountains. They moved to the homestead in 1931 and lived in a cabin while the house was being built. The Bowens eventually expanded their claim to 2000 acres.
Ruby Bowen kept a diary of her first year in the Tucson Mountains. The diary makes several references to the wildlife that existed in the area including javelina, deer, wild horses and sheep that would come down from the cliffs every evening to graze in the valley. She even mentions a mountain lion that would come near the house when she was cooking meat and that one time attempted to get in a window.
The Bowens left Tucson in 1944 and moved to New York City where Sherry Bowen worked for the Associated Press. The valley and their homestead became part of Tucson Mountain Park in 1983.
Summary prepared from the Tucson Hiking Guide written by Betty Leavengood.
With window openings which let you look through the house you get a feeling for how much the Bowens wanted to bring the out-of-doors inside.
Talk about a room with a view. Heaven!
Look at the size of the window. Remember, this place was built in the 30s.
We were speculating as to whether they would have had actual glass windows or just shutters. But it seems steel framed windows were in common usage by then - surely they would have used them. After all, you would have to keep the winter cold out.
I pestered everyone to pose for me - except Roger. He was too busy doing the same thing I was. Imagine that!
The last shot of the day. Maureen said this looked like "Wabi-sabi". I told her she was goofy because that is something you put on sushi, not find out in the desert.
But good old WikiPedia set me straight.
The words wabi and sabi do not translate easily. Wabi originally referred to the loneliness of living in nature, remote from society; sabi meant "chill", "lean" or "withered". Around the 14th century these meanings began to change, taking on more positive connotations. Wabi now connotes rustic simplicity, freshness or quietness, and can be applied to both natural and human-made objects, or understated elegance.
It can also refer to quirks and anomalies arising from the process of construction, which add uniqueness and elegance to the object. Sabi is beauty or serenity that comes with age, when the life of the object and its impermanence are evidenced in its patina and wear, or in any visible repairs.
Great hike! My thanks to Miss Winky, Maureen, Bill and Roger for a fun time in the desert.
'Till next time...